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Thursday, 11 March 2010 11:21

Census Scams and How to Avoid Them

Written by  Sheriff Jim Coats
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2010 CensusBeginning in March, Pinellas County residents will receive their 2010 Census forms in the mail. The census data are important because they are used in determining congressional and legislative districts as well as determining funding for schools, housing, roads, and more. The form is shorter this year than in 2000, and is comprised of only 10 questions. Residents are asked to fill out the form and return it by U.S. mail. If forms are not received by April 1, 2010, census workers will begin visiting those households that did not return their forms. These visits will occur from April through July, 2010. Federal law mandates that individual responses are confidential.

As simple as this process is, criminals still find ways to victimize members of the public. The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, along with Pinellas County Justice and Consumer Services and other local law enforcement agencies, are united in their mission to make the public aware that even the census can be a tool for criminals to engage in identity theft, fraud and burglary.

First of all, census workers are not contacting anyone by email or through the internet. Do not respond to any census-related inquiries online. All forms will be sent by U.S. mail. Look twice at any communication by email or U.S. mail using the word "census" to promote an unrelated event or fund raiser. The official federal census forms do not solicit donations for or promote any organization or cause.

According to investigators with Pinellas County Justice and Consumer Services, “Legitimate census workers conducting neighborhood visits will carry an identification badge, a hand-held device, a Census Bureau logo canvas bag and a confidentiality notice.” If someone claiming to be a census worker comes to your door, ask for identification and do not allow that person inside. Official census workers are to remain outside to conduct their resident contacts. They will not ask you to “use the bathroom” or “to make a phone call.”

Assigned census workers are knocking on doors to verify address information. They might ask for a salary range in the household, but no other financial information will be sought. Be suspicious of any “census” worker who asks for your credit card or banking information, your social security number, or who solicits donations.

Official census workers may make contact by phone, and if you are concerned, you can confirm their identity and affiliation with the Census Bureau by calling 1-800-432-1495.

Florida is part of the United States Census Bureau’s Atlanta Regional Census Center, along with Alabama and Georgia. Two Local Census Offices (LCOs) will open in Pinellas County:

St. Petersburg Local Census Office
6661 49th Street North
727-290-2020

Clearwater Local Census Office
2461 North McMullen Booth Rd.
727-287-9520

Citizens with questions or concerns about the census, or who wish to report any concerns, can contact the following offices or local law enforcement.

Pinellas County Planning Department
David Walker, Planning Section Manager
727-464-8200

Pinellas County Justice and Consumer Services Office
727-464-6200

For more information and to actually view the 10-question 2010 Census form, visit 2010.census.gov.

Read 2045 times Last modified on Thursday, 11 March 2010 11:48